Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Sunday, July 11, 2010


What was Joseph Kabila thinking? According to local and Belgian press, he gave Belgian Queen Paola a diamond necklace, earrings and bracelet on the occasion of Congo's 50th anniversary celebrations. A bit of a PR catastrophe. The whole point of the pomp and speeches was to emphasize the country's new-found sovereignty after years of war, not to remind us of the sordid past - Belgian colonialism, big man politics and blood diamonds.

All parties involved have been involved in damage control. The Conglese embassy in Brussels published a statement, denying the gift's existence altogether, saying that the royal couple had received, like all other guests, a watch with a symbol of the 50th anniversary emblazoned. Minister of Info Lambert Mende said the gift of diamonds existed, but that it had been given by the First Lady Olive Lembe. Diamonds and gold are produced in the Congo, he added, why not make such a present?

The royal press secretary confirmed that they had received the gift and announced that it will be given to the royal donation, which, as far as I can understand, belongs to the state and could be drawn on to reduce the growing national deficit. Belgian MPs have asked the Prime Minister Yves Leterme about the gift, and Leterme had already called the celebrations "a true waste," due to the costly parades and pomp involved.

So why did Kabila do it? Was he eager to make new friends in Belgium? Impress the king and queen? Whatever the reason, it was a throwback to the pomp of olden times, when Mobutu would send diplomats away with envelopes of cash and jewels. Not in good taste. Obama gave the Queen of England an iPod with some music on it, that might have been a better idea. I'm sure King Albert would have enjoyed some Werra Son and Feix Wazekwa.


Thomas Hubert said...

Not sure a music player filled with Kivu conflict minerals would have gone down much better ;-)

Judith said...

What I find actually a much more intriguing question is why ops against ADF-NALU were launched on June 26 at a time when the FDLR are far from under control.

It seems rather unlikely the ADF-NALU were actually involved in the attack on Nyaleke last April, as they had not been operating in that area for a long time (not to say that it is more plausible the mysterious Forces Œcuméniques pour la Libération du Congo (FOLC), founded by an ex-APC captain, were behind the attack, as some sources claim). However, it is true that civil society in Beni territory has reported heightened ADF-NALU activity in Watalinga since the beginning of May.

The attack on Edouard Nyamwisi’s house in Mutwanga on June 28, claimed to be the work of the ADF-NALU, is also interesting in light of the fact his brother Mbusa Nyamwisi (present Minister of Decentralization) is alleged to have supported this rebel group. In any case, the operations do seem to serve Kampala well (always eager to inflate security threats ) and they reinforced deployment to the border zone.

Now what to make of all this?

Anonymous said...

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Jason Stearns said...

On the ADF-NALU: Good question. My guess (uninformed, haven't been following it closely) is that Kabila is worried about militia gaining ground in that area - the ADF has been rearing its head over past months, with increased attacks on aid convoys and civilians, an has said to have linked up with the FPJC in Ituri. And indeed, Mbusa may have his hands in this pie, as he has in the past (not sure what his politics with his brother in Mutwanga are these days), all the more reason for Kinshasa to keep an eye on the situation.

There were also some bizarre arrests of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis on the Ugandan border recently, rumored to be linked with the Muslim radical elements in the ADF-NALU. Not sure what to make of that (some of them were supposed to be on a US wanted list).

A suivre.

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